Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita Tornado Strikes in Belzoni, MS

As Rita rumbled through Mississippi this past weekend, she spawned Tornadoes. One hit our friends in Belzoni. Richard Wiman, the faithful pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Belzoni, gives this inspiring report:

"Saturday afternoon a little after 4:00, a tornado roared right through our neighborhood. Four homes on either side of ours were either totally destroyed or sustained major damage. Other than broken windows, holes in our roof and lots of shingles gone and some holes from flying missiles, fence blown down and trees down all around our house, we survived. I was watching the weather when I heard the trademark train coming. I looked out of the window of the room I was in, which was facing the direction from which the tornado was coming, and there it was already on us. I yelled for Dorothy and our daughter Lindsay to run for the bathroom.

We didn't get there before it was on us. The pressure was enormous. If felt as though the house was going to explode. Flying debris hitting and breaking open a window saved us in that regard. It couldn't have lasted more than 10-15 seconds. I wasn't too shook up till I walked outside and started seeing the destruction all around us. Three houses south, destroyed. Two houses south, the parsonage for Eastside Baptist Church, partially destroyed. A huge oak down on our next door neighbor's house, skip us and the house next to us on the north, and then the next two houses both destroyed, and major damage to an old manufacturing plant only a few hundred yards to our north and west. The tornado continued its destructive path northward and took the life of an Hispanic worker in a mobile home.

God was awesome in His power, goodness and grace. The three of us were totally calm in the midst of our experience, knowing where we were headed. What an incredible confirmation of the reality of our faithful God and His saving grace in Jesus Christ.

When I got to the church and started reading over my morning message, I started laughing out loud. God is not only good and gracious, He's got a great sense of humor. Here is what His Spirit had led me to write earlier in preparation for Sunday morning. Bear with me. I don't ordinarily think this much of any of my messages, but this is incredible. Based on Luke 11:33-36, and entitled, "The Light of Your Life," this is the way the introduction began:

'What lights up your life? Entergy or a rural electric power association? One thing's clear. If we aren't able to receive power from our service provider, the lights won't work. In the case of our homes and businesses, the power that serves as the light of our lives comes from an outside source. Many times, the storms of life interrupt that service, and the lights go out. We're left in the dark, and as we've repeatedly seen over and over again through hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms, we don't do very well when the light of our lives goes out.'

'When the electricity goes out, flashlights, candles, oil lamps and such become real important. Living without electricity is at least an inconvenience, but if we're forced to live totally in the dark, it really cripples us, doesn't it? Imagine this scenario. The electricity goes out just as the sun is going down in the evening.'

'All of this was exactly what happened to us. To say that the folks were paying attention to the message yesterday is an understatement. God reached out and grabbed our attention. We're so thankful to be here to tell of His wonders and praise His mighty name. Yours in Christ, Richard Wiman.

P.S. If anyone's interested, pictures of the damage from the tornado can be viewed at thebelzonibanner.com. Our house isn't pictured, but it's directly behind the home of Billy & Melissa Davis, which I think is the second picture in the list.

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